Helicopter pilot pest eradication expert
Wanaka man Peter Garden started his flying career as an agricultural pilot in Southland and went on to become one of the world’s pre-eminent eradication helicopter pilots.
The 70-year-old has been made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to aviation and conservation and said it was circumstances that led him to the work he is being recognised for.
‘‘I’m not doing anything that other pilots couldn’t do but I’ve had opportunities simply because I’ve had experience on these projects.’’
Early on he spent quite a lot of time working for the Wildlife Services and later Department of Conservation, particularly with endangered species including the kakapo.
Working with new GPS technology and newly developed toxins, his team started pest and rat eradication work around the Southland Coast and on Codfish Island.
One successful programme followed another. He was chief pilot for predator eradication on the sub-Antarctic Campbell Island, and lead pilot for various Habitat Enhancement Programmes inter- nationally, including the Pacific Islands, the Seychelles and the Aleutian Islands.
From 2013 to 2015 Garden was helicopter advisor and flight operations manager for South Georgia Heritage Trust for the eradication of rats from South Georgia Island, in the United States, during the final phases of the five year project.
He has recently been involved with establishing a new company advising on similar work and is still out flying when he can.
‘‘I still hold New Zealand and American commercial pilot’s licenses and have been working this year in the Carribean.’’
His company had a contract for the Antipodes land mass eradication job and he has a project coming up in the Galapagos Islands. ‘‘There’s a real appetite for doing these projects now.’’
Garden has also held positions as helicopter safety counsellor and chairman of the Helicopter Division for the Aviation Industry Association of New Zealand, chairman of the Steering Committee of the New Zealand Helicopter Association, aviation advisor to New Zealand Land Search and Rescue and a founding trustee of Southern Region Air Ambulance Trust and the Forest Hill Foundation.
Wanaka man Peter Garden is regarded as one of the world’s pre-eminent eradication helicopter pilots.